Setting Realistic Fitness Goals

Having realistic fitness goals can make the difference between a successful fitness plan and one which ends in frustration and disappointment.

So many people want an instant fix to a problem that took years to come about. Look in the health and fitness forums and you’ll see hundreds of these questions such as, “How do I lose 10 pounds in a week?” or “How can I run faster by next weekend?”.

The television is loaded with commercials for fitness equipment and diets that offer empty promises of immediate weight loss.

And it’s these messages that set our expectations when it comes to establishing our fitness goals.

A goal should be a well-thought out destination…not a declaration made out of disgust (i.e. “I need to lose 30 pounds!?”).

If your goal includes weight loss, you’ll want to determine what a healthy weight is for your height.

You’ll also want to consider the timeline (what is a reasonable amount of time to reach that weight?).

And in order to set a realistic goal, you're going to need to honestly assess your health and fitness situation before you start. Unfortunately, most of us think we’re in better shape than we actually are.

I was smacked by this harsh reality a few years ago, when I decided to set an overly aggressive 5k race goal time. I missed the goal by over a minute and it nearly crushed my determination and spirit.

Take a few minutes to go through the tools below and refine your goal. If you go through these tools, you should be able to determine a healthy weight goal for your height.

You’ll also learn how to measure your body fat percentage easily with no equipment to purchase.

Just use the Back button on your web browser to keep returning back to this page to refine & set your fitness goal.

  • Body Mass Index (BMI): 
    The BMI link will take you to a free calculator – enter your height and weight and it will calculate your BMI and the category that you fall in (underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese). Write down your BMI number & the category that you’re in. Now enter in various weights into the calculator for your height to determine what weight you need to reach to have a BMI in the “Healthy Range”. Getting your BMI into the healthy range is a great fitness goal to have, and a good “sounding board” for a healthy goal weight to aim for.
  • Ideal Weight 
    The Body Mass Index calculator, above, uses height and weight to help you determine a healthy fitness goal. Another tool is the ideal weight chart. This chart was developed by Life Insurance companies based on longevity. The insurance companies have compiled a lot of data that correlates height, weight, frame-size, and length of life. Their “ideal weight” ranges are based on those that live the longest…or those that have the least risk to insure (a good group to be in). Like BMI, this is a good gauge to help you refine your weight for your fitness goal.
  • Body Fat Measurements 
    Measuring BMI and looking up our Ideal Weight are both based on the bathroom scale only. And while this is usually a very reliable tool, it doesn’t differentiate between a pound of fat and a pound of muscle. Some of the body builders and others with a large amount of muscle mass prefer to measure their body fat. You can use calipers, pay for a hydrostatic test, or you can use a cloth measuring tape and look it up in the tables on the above link. This is a simple and reliable method and is yet another way to refine your fitness goals to get into a healthy body fat range. Another positive is that inches off your waist and hips are visible and very rewarding measurements to take…try adding this simple tool to your self-assessment.

The three tools above will help us get a good target for our fitness goal, but that is only ½ of the equation. The next part deals with the timeline…the part that everyone wants to accelerate or shrink to the maximum extent possible.

I’m rather impatient myself, so I can empathize with those that want to “lose 10 pounds by the weekend”. But I’ve also taken a ride on the weight loss roller coaster a number of times and know that patience pays off…and impatience leads to frustration and goals unmet.

Use the tools below to set a realistic timeline for you and your lifestyle. Don’t let anyone dictate what a good timeline is for weight loss or meeting your goal…you decide.

  • The Calorie Equation 
    Before you set off to lose all those pounds, know that it took months or even years to put those pounds on. Pounds of fat are stored energy from excess calories in our diets. To lose fat, we need to burn more energy than we take in. There are approximately 3,500 calories of energy in one pound of body fat. We burn energy through our daily metabolism (BMR) and exercise.
  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) 
    As eluded to above our metabolism, or BMR, is the calories that our bodies burn each day. This will vary based on our gender, age, and weight. You can use the calculator on the above link to figure our your metabolism. You can also use it to figure out what your metabolism will be when you reach your fitness goal weight. Why? Because if you were to change your eating habits so that your intake matched your goal-BMR, you would eventually reach and stay at your goal weight. Make sense? It takes less calories to maintain less body weight. Look up your BMR and write it down…this is a key component of any successful fitness goal.
  • Calories Burned by Exercise 
    This is the real ingredient for quick weight loss and ultimately meeting your fitness goal. While it is an absolute must to evaluate your eating habits and adopt healthier foods, exercise can really accelerate weight loss. Exercise can easily add 200-300 calories of calorie burn per day with just 30-40 minutes of exercise. See the calculator on the above link to determine what activities meet your lifestyle and pleasure. Walking and running are very effective calorie burners and don’t require a gym membership or any equipment.
  • The Food Log 
    Most diets fail because they separate us from our favorite foods and simple pleasures of life. You don’t have to starve yourself to lose weight…but you may want to cut back on the portion and frequency of some treats. For example, a smaller bowl (1/2 cup versus 2 cup) is a good way to enjoy ice cream without taking in a massive amount of calories. And if pasta is one of your favorites…not to worry, just try to have a lighter lunch or cut out the snacks so that you can save some of your intake for your favorite dinner. It’s not impossible, but it will take some strength and will power to shake some of those not-so-good daily habits: eating out for lunch…snacking after work…morning pastries…etc… There are a lot of better small daily decisions that can help lead us to our fitness goals. Add up your calories for the day in a food log and you can see the weight loss add up. And while these gradual steps may seem to not bear any immediate results, they really do add up over time.

Another tip on weight loss for your fitness goal: weight loss doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve run 3+ hour marathon training runs and watched the bathroom scale go up in the same day!

Your body gradually adjusts to the eating habit changes and exercise and it will regulate your weight based on these factors. And while we all would like to think of ourselves as machines…or a car burning gas…our bodies are much more complex.

If you plan to lose weight as a part of your fitness goal, make sure your timeline is at least 4-6 weeks long…anything less and your results could be masked by over / under hydration or waste products still in your body. 

Be patient…gradual steps will give you lifetime results! Best of luck in your pursuit of your fitness goals!

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